Pie Love and Lovers (United)

My favorite - pie with a bacon lattice crust

In 2002 the Farmer's Almanac held a National Dessert Election in which 30,000 people voted for the most American Dessert.  Almost 50% of the vote went to the top choice, and the second choice had only 14% of the vote.  This explains why, instead of saying "American as Strawberry Shortcake" everyone knows we're as "American as Apple Pie."  The results of the Almanac's survey on our most popular desserts show the following results:

47% Apple Pie

14% Strawberry Shortcake
13% Ice Cream
12% Cheesecake
11% Chocolate Cake
3% Other

In her 1986 article in "From the Kitchen," Jan Longone argues that there are a number of reasons to change the saying to "American as Indian Pudding." In part because "The American language and literature are filled with poems, stories, and references to corn." And, presciently for pre-Michael Pollan days, "It is our national grain."  With 3 recipes for the cornmeal-based Indian Pudding appearing in Amelia Simmons' American Cookery (the first printed recipes in English using this most American of new-world foods), Longone explains:

"We do know that the techniques used in making Indian or Hasty Pudding are age-old; gruels, potages, porridges, frumenties, and puddings were made from earliest times. We also know that specific pudding recipes very similar in nature to those for Indian Pudding appear in early English cookbooks, but these use wheat flour, rye flour, oatmeal, ground rice, crumbled bread or cake, or other cereals and starches in place of the corn meal. Further, there are records that various Indian tribes and civilizations in the New World were making some form of corn meal gruel or pudding, oftimes sweetened with honey or native berries. But it is exactly the combination of the ancient techniques with the indigenous New World crop, corn, flavored with the colonial products of ginger, nutmeg and molasses, which I believe makes Indian Pudding a contender for our national dish."

By comparison, there are only 2 recipes for Apple Pie - a traditional English food - in Mrs. Simmons' landmark cookbook.  

Regardless of reason and logic, somehow Indian Pudding has not yet caught on (remember Ben Franklin thought the turkey should be our national bird - which also makes more sense).  And Strawberry Shortcake is a very worthy dessert.  With good strawberries and a hot flaky biscuit it's one of the worthiest, in fact.  

Why then is Pie our top dessert choice?  I keep going back to the idea that for Americans, who started out as English Pilgrims, a community is only as good as its pie. That the good things in life are contained and contextualized in pie. That celebration is cause for pie, and pie is cause for celebration. 

On Saturday July 19th this year, over 110 pie lovers convened in Ypsilanti for Pie Lovers Unite!, Slow Food Huron Valley's 2nd annual pie extravaganza.  With pie music, pie walks, a pie contest, and pie haikus,  it was, like last year's event,  a small taste of pie heaven. 

Some highlights of the evening were: 
- Worrying that only 3 people would show up and then at 7:00pm watching as line of 20 or more people lined up through the doorway to bring in their gorgeous works of pie art.
- Seeing the intense concentration on the faces of the 4 Culinary Historian judges as they evaluated each pie.
- Standing behind a circle of people surrounding the pie table, 5 deep, waiting patiently and impatiently to get pieces of pie.
- And of course, hearing Emily's fabulous Pie Haiku, which brought down the house. Spoken with a deep sense of regret, it went something like this:

"My pie was too late
To enter the pie contest
I know it would win"

Making a pie is the ultimate gesture of welcome - it takes skill and care to make a pie. You don't bake a surpassingly good pie by accident.  And eating pie is the ultimate feeling of well-being. Tucking into a warm slice of crispy-crusted fresh fruit-filled pie is the grown-up equivalent of being rocked like a baby. 

It's a warm feeling knowing that Pie Lovers, with generosity and humor, have treated each other to a night of appreciating and celebrating what's best in life.  It's a hopeful thing that Pie Lovers still walk the earth and bring their gifts for the good of the pie loving community. 

I'd also have to say, if our community is only as good as our pie, we've got one damn fine community.  

Copyright 2011 - The Farmer's Marketer